Category "Working"

Frere-Jones and Hoefler

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Sadly, found this amazing video because of this:

In January, Frere-Jones filed a lawsuit against Hoefler, saying that their company was not actually a partnership, but a long con in which Hoefler had tricked him into signing over the rights to all of his work, cheating Frere-Jones out of his half of the business. “In the most profound treachery and sustained exploitation of friendship, trust and confidence, Hoefler accepted all the benefits provided by Frere-Jones while repeatedly promising Frere-Jones that he would give him the agreed equity, only to refuse to do so when finally demanded,” the complaint charges. Frere-Jones is asking a court to grant him $20 million.

via, spd.org.

For Me Shooting Still Images And Motion Simultaneously Changes Everything

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Guest post by Scott Pommier

Until recently I had no interest in the convergence of stills and motion. I bought a Canon 5d mark II well after the surge of photographer-made videos, and owned that camera for more than a year before I switched it to video mode. That was at the urging of my agent who had been telling me that it was becoming important to have some examples of moving-image to show clients. I shot one crummy video and went back to using my 35mm film SLR. I’d heard that photographers of the future would be shooting with magical hybrid cameras, but it didn’t seem relevant to my process (my camera of choice when shooting a portrait or a fashion story is still a Pentax 67). I knew that some photographers had been extracting stills from RED footage, but that was all purely academic, something that the Steven Kliens of the world were doing that made little sense for the way that I worked.
 
November of last year a friend let me know that RED was selling off their old Red One cameras at shockingly affordable price. These were cameras that company had taken as traded-in, and they’d been outfitted with a new sensor. Bigger and heavier than RED’s current models but fully capable of shooting a Hollywood feature. It seemed like an amazing opportunity and without nearly enough thought, I launched into a whole new dimension of my career. It’s now been a year since my first small moving-image production, and looking back it’s amazing to see how my mindset and how my way of working has changed. I thought I would share my understanding of what the latest breakthrough in cameras means for me.
 
I was looking to upgrade to a newer cinema camera, having outgrown the Red One. RED had recently announced an entirely new sensor. Current owners of the RED Epic could have their camera-bodies upgraded with the new 6k Dragon sensor (The Dragon camera is also available new, but, well, it’s complicated.

dragon still life 2014

RED has sort of tiered approach to ownership, which is a topic for another day.) I bought a camera from a guy who was already waiting in the upgrade line, he had quite a good spot as it turned out. Overnight I went from being 15-years behind the times to using a camera that only a handful of people in the world had access to.
 
Red has been claiming that their cameras were capable of producing a usable still image for some time now, and to be fair that was sorta’ true. With the best resources it was possible and there are Vogue covers to prove it, but, having pulled stills from both Red One and Epic cameras I have to say, the results were, maybe not underwhelming, but not exactly overwhelming either, maybe just whelming? But for anyone tempted to dismiss the latest hype about the Dragon camera as nothing more than the same predictable public relations blast, I will tell you, for me, this camera changes everything. The Dragon allows you to shoot still images and motion images simultaneously.
 
A few numbers, for the uninitiated: RED’s new Epic ‘Dragon’ is capable of producing 6k files. What that means is that each frame can be up to 19.4 megapixel or 6144 x 3160 which gives you a 20.48” x 10.53” image at 300dpi. The sensor boasts a 16.5 stop dynamic range.  Where the original Epic had a native ISO of 800, the Dragon performs well between 200 and 2000. Less impressive than the latest 35mm DSLRs but far more forgiving than current medium-format offerings (it is worth noting that DSLRs make use of ‘in-camera’ noise reduction, and which still results in significant loss of detail at high ISO settings.)
 
There are all kind of color-charts and controlled tests that plot one camera or film or digital back against another. I leave that kind of testing to people who are a good deal more thorough than I am. But after taking this thing out for a spin the difference was obvious. Shooting under the hot-noon sun yielded very similar results to print film, in terms of color rendering and contrast. There is also a sharp yet smooth quality to the images, like a high-resolution scan of medium-format film. In fact this ‘movie camera’ produces the best digital stills I’ve ever seen. I include in that list the Sony f55, the Arri Alexa, any and all DSLRs, Leica’s M9 and S2, The new Phase One back and even the Hasselblad that looks like a Ferrari, all of them. The Dragon is the first digital camera that has made me hopeful that I will be able to continue shooting images that match the look and feel of my current work even with the impending demise of film.
 
What does this all mean? Potentially it could mean a lot of things. One thing it could mean is that in many cases, photographers could be replaced. Talented DP’s who shoot day-in-day-out, use the sharpest lenses known to man and have a team of people to light a scene, they know how to take pictures, really good pictures. Now extracting those pictures is easier than ever, and the resolution of those pictures is greater than ever. Why bring in a photographer who’s going to disrupt the workflow when you could just reset, quickly change your shutterspeed/ISO (if that’s even necessary.) Imagine a 1st A.D. yelling out “Capturing for print! Okay, moving on.” Scary right?
 
Alternatively… say you’re hired to shoot stills but in addition to the stills you end up with broadcast-quality footage, footage that you could license to the client. Exciting right?
 
It’s what Homer Simpson might call a “crisi-tunity.” You can make of it what you will, but there’s every chance the world will change a little bit, for better or for worse, or perhaps for better and for worse.
 
Thrilled as I am with my new camera and all that it does, I will be the first to tell you that having your still camera wrapped up in a movie camera creates some difficulties. Here are a few things to consider:
 
Cost
Crisis: Expensive, buying the camera is just the start
 
Opportunity: Two cameras for the price of one.  As expensive as the Dragon is, when is the last time Canon or Nikon allowed you to swap out your sensor rather than simply selling you a new camera? Or offered a factory trade-in program? The fact is for a camera that shoots capital M Movies the Dragon comparatively cheap. Red has also kept the same form factor, despite criticisms (believe it or not) that the camera is too small. The advantage there is that accessories carry over between models, even after upgrades. There are also a number of third-party manufacturers such as Wooden Camera that make some very clever and affordable components.
 
Storage
Crisis: You’ll need lots of it, backed up even. See above.
 
Opportunity: N/A
 
Workflow
Crisis: If you like to chimp in the field (you know: shoot, look, shoot, look) it’s not nearly so quick to review footage, especially slow motion to double-check that you’ve got the shot.
 
Opportunity: When you’re editing you have the opportunity to find moments you hadn’t considered during capture. On slow-motion takes you’ll be able to pinpoint the exact timing you’re after. Also, programs like Premiere Pro 6 handle the native RAW files in a really interesting way, allowing your to review and edit the footage at a lower resolution, if you edit at say ¼ resolution, the footage is still sharp (HD sharp actually) but even a laptop is often able to play everything in real time. This is a huge leap forward from the old days of RED footage, the memory of which still haunts a lot of people who will tell you that the post workflow with RED cameras is prohibitively cumbersome. These are the people who thought that Elvis’ pelvic gyrations on the Ed Sullivan show were too obscene for the viewing public. Feel free to ignore these people.
 
Lenses
Crisis: Cinema lenses are expensive and heavy.
 
Opportunity: Interchangeable mounts allow you to use your ‘still’ lenses, also cinema lenses can be incredibly sharp. Also, when collimated the ‘witness marks’ (distance scale) are accurate, so you can measure to ensure focus, or set marks on the lens to track focus on moving subjects. Inferior to tracking autofocus in some ways, better in others.
 
Weight
Crisis: Heavy! Hand holdable, but flying with cinema gear is a drag. Lugging it around a set is a drag.
 
Opportunity: Solidly built, steadier than your 7d footage. The system is modular and can be configured in all kinds of ways, from a fairly portable one all the way to a Hollywood technocrane setup.
 
Learning Curve
Crisis: Lots to learn, from the gear to the workflow, to the jargon.
 
Opportunity: Lots of support to help you learn. Learning is fun. Mashing buttons is learning!
 
The Dragon is just the first of many cameras will further blur the line between still and motion capture. No matter how you feel about that, this is not the time stick your head in the sand, or to wait for the storm to pass, or to hope that the genie will go back in the bottle. Quite the opposite, which I guess means that, it’s time to emerge from the sand during a storm and unleash a genie? What I’m trying to say is that sooner or later this kind of technology will become commonplace, and you should think about what that will mean for how you work and how you market your talents.

Sample Images:

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A006_C034_0216UT

A005_C007_0320JT

Getty Images Are Now Free For Online Editorial Use

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Last week news broke that Getty Images was making the majority of its collection available for editorial and acedemic embedding as long as they can append a footer at the bottom of the picture. The Verge reported that according to Craig Peters, a business development exec at Getty Images the ship sailed long ago as far as trying to prevent unauthorized use of their images online (story here) and their “content was everywhere already”.

Peter Krogh of The DAM Book has a different take on the situation. He speculates that the Carlyle Group, the private equity firm that has majority ownership of Getty is looking to cash out before a 1.2 billion dollar loan comes due in 2016 and given that Getty’s 2011 revenue was $900 million their profit is likely a small fraction of that and so they need to do something quickly to increase the value of the company.

Peter goes on to theorize that the whole embedding business is about gathering information which I agree can be more valuable than money to investors. You should read his entire post here: http://thedambook.com/getty-did-what

You only have to look the Facebook purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp or the stock price of Twitter to understand that users are more valuable than revenue. So I think Getty is going to get on the user bandwagon by allowing free use of their images. What’s crazy about everyone getting on the user bandwagon is they all have the same plan to make money in the end: advertising. I think some simple math will prove that adding up all the minutes spent on an application times the current ad rates does not equal the valuation all these companies supposedly have. Getty is very late to a game of chicken with companies that have a tiny fraction of the overhead. All signs point to a writedown for the Carlyle Group in 2016.

Texas Photo Roundup – Interview With Andy Anderson

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I’m excited to be attending the Texas Photo Roundup this year to interview Andy Anderson about his career and moderate a panel on social media for photographers. Andy’s also leading a workshop if you want to get even more insight from him. Information below:

In Conversation: Andy Anderson and Rob Haggart

Saturday, March 1 / 10:30am – 12:00pm Location: Long Center Kodosky Donor Lounge Join Rob Haggart, award-winning photo editor and founder of popular photography blog APhotoEditor.com, and Andy Anderson, acclaimed commercial and editorial photographer, for a frank one-on-one conversation. Andy and Rob will talk about Andy’s career, how he got his start, the challenges he’s faced, how he stays true to his vision and more. Q&A to follow. REGISTER HERE   Or purchase an All Access Pass to all the morning talks and presentations

Andy Anderson Workshop: Keeping your Personal Vision Under the Demands of a Commercial Market

  Thursday, February 27 / 9-6pm Friday, February 28 / 9-5pm Location: Whitebox Studio REGISTER HERE Join commercial and editorial photographer Andy Anderson for a unique 2-day workshop. One of the hardest situations a photographer can experience is staying true to one’s own personal style in the face of a commercial assignment where photo editors, art directors or account planners are all focusing on their objectives for a shoot. Making sure you are not just taking orders from these people — but instead bringing your own personal style and vision to life in the context of the assignment — is the ultimate goal. This is what we will work together to achieve over the course of this workshop.

Why Do Photographers Charge So Much?

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I’m reposting this from our sister blog Photography and Architecture, because I think Joshua Dool has such smart answers to the question Why do architectural photographers charge so much?

Joshua Dool, Blue Planet

Blue Planet Aquarium, Copenhagen. Designed by Danish architects 3XN. All images © Joshua Dool

Joshua Dool is an award-winning architectural and industrial photographer based in Vancouver, Canada. Joshua was interested in both architecture and photography from a young age but photography won out. We wanted to hear about the skills required to properly photograph a building, the costs to the architect, and how a photographer can be creative in meeting budgets – he was kindly most forthcoming.

Q: What justifies the cost of strong architectural imagery?
JD: Photography isn’t much different than anything else. Fast and cheap doesn’t equal good. With architecture photography, it takes time to get the perfect angle and the perfect lighting, so the fast category doesn’t really even apply to it. So then, we are left with either cheap or good, and you probably aren’t going to get both.

My experience has been: the cheaper the photographer, the poorer the image looks, and in a society that is becoming increasingly visually literate, thanks to social media and the internet, fantastic photos are a must! Strong images strengthen a brand, weak images diminish a brand. This is true for all advertising, and it is especially true for architecture. Great projects deserve great photos to represent them, because at the end of the day, for the vast majority of an architect’s future clients, this will be the only way they ever get to interact with that design!

This doesn’t mean the more expensive the better, but it does mean that good imagery comes at a justified price. Half-rate images can make a fantastic project look crappy, and fantastic images can make an average project really stick out. The strength of the imagery is going to define whether the local paper or national magazine features it; it will affect how professional your website looks; it’s going to be the face of that project for awards consideration, and it’s going to determine whether the project images get onto social media which can generate A LOT of buzz and flow to your website.

Q: Why do architecture photographers charge so much, and what is associated with the cost?
JD: Several things are associated with producing professional images. In order to produce great architecture photos, you need a decent amount of gear, and a lot of knowledge specific to the field of architecture photography.

It takes time to scout locations, find angles, and map the sun through the course of the day in order to show up and capture great images on the day of production. Most shoots require one day of scouting, and one or two days of actual capture, but then the images are not ready out of the camera either, and can often take another one to three hours per photo in postproduction. So, there is a considerable time investment in photographing architecture properly.

Professional camera equipment and lighting is not cheap either. I arrive on a shoot with usually $20k+ worth of my own gear. I have pro-camera systems, tilt shift lenses, a few strobe kits, large reflectors, multiple tripods, and then a swath of gear at home for editing the photos in post production. It’s an incredibly expensive form of photography. And then, in order for me to hone my craft and get proficient at using all the cameras, lighting, and reflector systems I use, I’ve put my time in assisting other photographers, doing lighting on movie sets, and in photo school. Architecture photography is a very specialized form of photography, and isn’t something that just anyone can do, especially if you want quality results.

Q: Do you find that a lot of clients are suprised at the cost of photography?
JD: Price is often a big factor, especially for smaller/newer firms. I am cognizant of this, and I am always happy to try to meet a price point where I can in order to build a relationship with a new firm.

I’ve had a specific scenario happen a few times this last year, where a firm has contacted me requesting a quote for me to photograph several of their projects. After collecting bids from a few different photographers, they called me back to see if I could budge my rate, basically saying that they wanted me as their photographer, but at the other guy’s price. So, I did my best to make something work, but they ended up going for the cheapest quote they’d received. In both of these instances, they didn’t end up posting any of the photographs from the other photographer on their website because they were unhappy with the results.

It’s a common practice for newer, less experienced photographers to try to compete on price point instead of on quality of imagery. The truth is, in order to work at some of these cut-throat prices, these photographers have to be either jet-set trust fund kids who are doing it as a passion and not for the money, or they are photographers who don’t have the same level of expertise and quality of equipment, and who probably won’t be around in another year to photograph your next project. That is, if you would even want them to!

I’m a big fan of architecture so it saddens me to see great projects end up being captured poorly.

Q: Is there a way that architects can keep the costs down or operate within a budget?
JD: YES! There are a few ways:
They can let the photographer know the budget they are working with, and see if the photographer has any suggestions. Personally, the best way to lower the price for me is to book me for two or more projects, as I offer discounts to firms when they package together a few commissions.

Or perhaps the photographer has a month with nothing booked they could move the shoot to, and offer a reduced rate. Here in Vancouver, it rains from November to March, so I would be more inclined to offer a discount on an interior shoot if it took place in the months I’m not busy shooting exteriors in the sunshine!

Another way is to perhaps shave a couple images off the wishlist, and make it a one day shoot instead of a two or three day shoot. Would you rather have image 12 images that look great, or have all 18 and run the risk of the discount photographer messing it up?

Q: What gets you excited about architecture photography?
JD: I am especially intrigued by the human interaction with architecture. Architecture is after all designed for people. So I try to include a human element in my photographs. Early on, I noticed that most renderings the architects had included people, because this is how they sell the functionality of the design, but most photographs I was seeing were empty spaces devoid of human life. Being around great architecture is exciting, and seeing how structure are utilized, how they shape peoples daily experiences, and how they serve there intended purpose is one area I’m especially fascinated with in my photography.

Joshua Dool Location:  Specialties: ;.

Joshua Dool, Blue Planet
Blue Planet Aquarium.

Joshua Dool, Peace Bridge

Peace Bridge, Calgary. Santiago Calatrava.

Joshua Dool, 8 House

8 House, Copenhagen.  Bjarke Ingels.

Joshua Dool, UBC Pharmaceutical

UBC Pharmaceutical, Vancouver. Saucier + Perrote.

Joshua Dool, Bella Sky Hotel

Bella Sky Hotel, Copenhagen. 3XN.

Joshua Dool, Private apartment

Private apartment.

Read about the cost of hiring an architectural photographer.

Read about how to hire an architectural photographer, from a rep’s perspective.

Read about how to hire an architectural photographer, from an architect’s perspective.

Hiring An Architectural Photographer

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Over on our sister blog, Photography & Architecture, we have an excellent post up informing Architects how to go about hiring a photographer. Julia Sabot interviewed Redeye Reps founder Maren Levinson about the process. You may find some good info in there or you may want to pass some advice onto potential clients:

There should be a cancellation policy or weather provision set up in advance, especially if there are multiple exterior shots on the list. Professional photographers are freelance. If they take your job, it is likely they are saying no to another. If you cancel without any notice due to weather or scheduling, they will want some sort of compensation for the day they did not accept another job. Mostly photographers will be reasonable about this and if they are local, could be ok with waiving it, but it should be discussed in advance.

pandainterview

The Weekly Edit: Who Shot it Better?

- - The Daily Edit, Working

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Bon Appetit

Creative Director: Michael Axe
Deputy Art Director: Mike Ley
Photo Director: Alex Pollack
Photo Editor: Susan Getzendanner

Photographer: Michael Graydon
Food Stylist: Nikole-Kerriott

 

 

 

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Martha Stewart Living

Creative Director: Matthew Axe
Deputy Design Director: Jen McManus
Photo Director: Jennifer Miller
Deputy Photo Editor: Linda Denahan
Photographer: Anna Williams
Food Styling: Jennifer Aaronson

 

 

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Food Network Magazine

Creative Director: Deirdre Koribanick
Art Director: Ian Doherty
Deputy Art Director: Marc Davila
Photo Director: Alice Albert
Deputy Photo Editor: Kathleen E. Bednerek
Photographer: Johnny Miller
Food Styling: Christine Albano

 

 

 

Photographer Holiday Cards

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Who better to keep the Holiday Card tradition alive than professional photographers… this is in your wheelhouse folks. Here’s a few to get started, post links in the comments to your holiday card and I’ll add them to the list. Here’s to a happy and successful 2014 for everyone.

01Martin_Schoeller

More here: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/photobooth/2013/12/a-merry-photographer-christmas.html

20131118194923-e1387469216180

http://thomasleetruewest.com/2013/12/19/best-wishes/

xmas2013

http://www.shanekislack.com/xmas/

Personal Photos

http://www.portergifford.com/studium/?p=1964

LiveMusicalExperience-with-Image

http://jeffsingerphotography.com/promo/201312-livemusic/

052_Image_002-1-Edit

http://laurengrabelle.blogspot.com/2013/12/happy-holidays-montana-editorial-fine.html

http://www.tedweinstein.com/pics/2013/

postcard_template_us

http://sethlowephoto.tumblr.com/post/70507348230/merry-christmas-shot-this-photo-in-my-hometown

canvas copy

http://reciprocity-failure.blogspot.com/2013/12/christmas-card-of-year.html

2013_holiday_promo1

http://robertolding.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/happy-holidays/

20131116_MCG0032_Christmas-Edit

http://matthewginn.com/happy-holidays/

BcB-GysCIAA-VdI

https://twitter.com/Don_Johnston/status/414469820860473344/photo/1

5"x7" Post Card Template

http://klikphotographic.com/newsletter/dec2013/5X7%20copy%20low%20res.jpg

santa

http://www.mikepinches.com/santa

tumblr_my8ixyrHgr1qca6b2o1_r2_1280

http://johnkealey.tumblr.com/

xmas2013

http://www.johnzillioux.com/Clientarea/Cards2.html

davehutchinson

http://davehutchinson.photoshelter.com/image/I0000URntjP8WJbM

cassonxmas2013

http://casson.com.au/cassonxmas2013.jpg

1508191_10151795770581951_1436661311_n

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151795770581951&set=a.10151665444596951.1073741825.82326371950&type=1&theater

wendy_carrig_photography

http://wendycarrig.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/joyeux-noel/

santa

http://www.srobertsphoto.com/happy-holidays

tumblr_my0mrgvKZb1qzpo12o1_1280

http://dwphoto.tumblr.com/post/70911266023/happy-holidays

Twitter Q&A With Sam Jones, Tuesday 2pm EST

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Sam Jones (@samjones) and I (@aphotoeditor) are going to have a Twitter Q&A on Tuesday Nov 26th at 2 EST. Follow Sam and ask any questions you have about working as a pro photographer.

Sam is well known a Los Angeles based Celebrity and Portrait photographer who also shoots documentary films and music videos. His most recent music video for Mumford & Sons went viral:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rId6PKlDXeU

Hopefully we can answer your most pressing questions in 140 characters or less…

Use this hashtag to see the questions and answers: #asksj

Next Professional Photographer Webcast Is Wednesday November 6th at 2:00 EST

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Professional Photographer Webcast Episode 3
Topic: Working with a consultant
When: Wednesday, November 6th at 2:00 EST
Where: Here on aphotoeditor.com and Google + (here)

Suzanne Sease and I will be joined by Colleen Vreeland. Suzanne as you may know comes from the Art Buying side of the business with many years of experience working at Advertising Agencies. Colleen has worked in the past as an agent for Sharpe & Associates, Friend & Johnson and Elizabeth Poje. Both now advise and consult with photographers, so we’ll discuss working with a consultant and what the entails, plus any pointed questions you have about the consulting business. If you’re thinking about working with a consultant or have in the past and want to know how to get the most out of the experience this will be a great show to watch.

Email me any questions you have to rob@aphotoeditor.com. You will remain anonymous on the webcast and I will not share your identity with our experts so feel free to ask your most pressing questions.

You can see our previous episode (here).

World Press Photo Looks To Change Contest Rules For Retouching

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The controversy that erupted this summer over the World Press Photo award winning image taken by Paul Hansen has forced the organization to examine their contest rules. In a press release on October 2nd announcing contest chair Gary Knight, Managing Director Michiel Munneke explained: “We have evaluated the contest rules and protocols and examined how to create more transparency, and we have changed the procedures for examining the files during the judging. We will announce further details when the 2014 Photo Contest opens for entries later this year, but the bottom line is that we will need to be able to rely on the integrity and professionalism of the participating photographers.”

Relying on the integrity of photographers is fine when it comes to the level of manipulation where things are added and removed from images, but the larger issue is that World Press Photo in the past has allowed the jury to decide what it deems “currently accepted standards in the industry” for retouching. And this opaque rule is what allowed a mob to form and go after Paul Hansen in the first place. Here are their rules for retouching at the time:

The contest entry rules state that the content of the images must not be altered. Only retouching which conforms to currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed. The jury will consider what they deem acceptable in each category during the judging

I hope that an organization with the reputation of World Press Photo will tell the world what these “currently accepted standards” are and set an example for newspapers, magazines and other contests. Despite the finger wagging of publications like PDN (ironically pushing over a dozen photo contests of their own) at the mob’s accusations towards Paul, the problem lies not with the blogger’s headlines, but rules that leave photographers hanging out to dry when questions arise.

The darkroom is long gone and a RAW image can have many different interpretations as it’s brought to life on the computer screen. Expecting photographers to not produce contest winning interpretations when entering World Press Photo is folly.

New Feature: Professional Photographer Webcast

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On Wednesday October 16th at 2pm EST (11am PST) there’s going to be a live webcast here on the blog and over on google plus where we discuss working in editorial and commercial photography. Basically the mission of this blog only in a webcast where I can have guests and take questions from people watching. I’ve already done one as sort of a test run that you can check out and decide if it’s something you’d be interested in watching here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrS77wlfzYw

Vimeo version here: https://vimeo.com/76621579

The goal is to try a new format for discussing topics of interests for Professional Photographers and because I don’t think there’s much out there for pros it should be worth producing a few times a month. I also like the idea of having guests on and discussing everything freeform instead of writing blog posts, something I’m doing less and less of 6 + years into this. Each episode with have myself representing the editorial perspective and Suzanne Sease talking commercial photography plus a guest or two. Next week our guest is Art Producer Kat Dalager. Send me any questions you might have on the topic of Art Production.

Turning Down Work For Your Beliefs

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Guest post by Ryan Smith

I have had many, many times when jobs fall through for reasons that are outside of my control. There haven’t been many times though when I’ve actively said no to a job and until last week, there had never been a time where I turned down a good paying job from a respectable agency because of ethical concerns.

That’s right. I left money on the table because I didn’t feel comfortable using my skill set to promote this particular client’s product. It was an extremely difficult decision. August is traditionally a slow month for me so when work comes along, and it’s paying reasonable rates, it’s really hard to say no. In this case however, I just couldn’t bring myself to work for this client. Without naming names (and please don’t try to guess), I will say that this client promotes a particular product that I just don’t fully support. I don’t think it’s good for people, the environment, our country or our future.

The reason I don’t want to identify this client is because the people who work for their agency of record are good people whom I like and want to continue to work with. I don’t want my ethical dilemma to reflect negatively on the agency’s business. This is an important point because I greatly value relationships and as a freelancer and small business owner it’s paramount that I maintain good working relationships.

The agency understood my position and even respected my decision. Which is pretty amazing when you think about it. There they were, offering me good money to shoot a job that countless other photographers would probably jump at. And here I am saying no to a job that didn’t even require any negotiation. Here’s the budget, here’s the shot list, it’s yours if you want it.

And, here’s the kicker. The actual assignment sounded interesting to me. I think it would have been a lot of fun to shoot, but I just couldn’t reconcile my feelings about how the images would be used. I thought long and hard about this assignment, but ultimately I had to turn it down. I like to think that I’m sticking to my ethical code and that I’m above selling out, but I wonder how the decision would have been different if the fee for the job could have been “life changing” for me and my family. Where do you draw the line and how do you balance supporting your family and maintaining a good conscience? There is a lot of gray area and only you can make the decision.

For now though, I feel good about not taking the job. Do I wish I was making money right now? Yes, but there are other jobs out there. Just to prove my point, literally within one hour of deciding to turn down this job I received an email from another agency asking me to bid on a much better job for a client that I can really pour all my energy into. Now just keep your fingers crossed that I win the bid.

This post originally appeared here: http://www.playingworkblog.com/2013/08/i-could-be-shooting-right-now-instead-im-writing-this/

A follow up post can be read here: http://www.playingworkblog.com/2013/09/the-opportunity-to-choose

Houzz Has Your Image Rights, How Long Before They’re Selling Them?

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It may already be too late. Houzz appears to be using the images posted by professional photographers to illustrate editorial stories they create for the front of the site. One photographer was contacted by a staff writer to find out who built what was depicted in the images with no mention of licensing the images for this reuse.

It’s not unusual for social media sites to have onerous terms when it comes to posting your images on their site. Generally this is because they have to host the images on servers which may be located anywhere in the world and repost the images at will for other people to see. To solve this they take all your rights… We’re all suspicious of what might come next but so far that’s been the extent of what they do.

Houzz has taken the first step in reuse that should be of great concern for professional photographers. Paying writers to create editorial content with images uploaded to the site competes directly with existing editorial outlets that pay for a similar use. So not only are they ripping off photographers they’re stealing readers from outlets with their free content. And as Houzz works towards a profitable business model they will start selling advertising against their freely obtained content… and their evil plan will be complete.

I’ve written about this before but it’s worth mentioning again. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Houzz, et al have not reinvented the wheel here (despite all the talk about new business models). They’ve simply discovered a lower cost way to obtain content: free (the business model of free has been around forever). And they’re now selling advertising against that content which is no different than how the New York Times, GQ, etc. operate. Except of course, those guys all pay for their content.

Photographer Caren Alpert first alerted me to the Terms on houzz.com:

“As part of your use of the Website, you may participate in certain ideabooks, message boards, member communications and/or other public forums. Your participation is voluntary; however, by choosing to create ideabooks, post photos or comments, send any messages, submit any ideas or feedback, or otherwise participate in any Houzz forum, you acknowledge and agree that any postings, messages, text, photos, audio/visual works, information, suggestions, feedback, reviews or content provided by you (collectively, “Content”) may be viewed by the general public and will not be treated as private, proprietary or confidential, and you authorize us and our affiliates, licensees and sublicensees, without compensation to you or others, to copy, adapt, create derivative works of, reproduce, incorporate, distribute, publicly display or otherwise use or exploit such Content throughout the world in any format or media (whether now known or hereafter created) for the duration of any copyright or other rights in such Content, and such permission shall be perpetual and may not be revoked for any reason. Further, to the extent permitted under applicable law, you waive and release and covenant not to assert any moral rights that you may have in any Content posted or provided by you.”

Working In China

- - Working

Guest post by Shannon Fagan

My post a couple of years ago about jobs in China on A Photo Editor occasionally generates some interested persons to reach out and take the time to email me about working in Beijing, Shanghai, or perhaps Shenzhen. There have been no takers that I am aware of for the jobs though, and the reasons are interesting, curious, worthy of review. I’m now at the two and a half years point in my relocation from New York City to Beijing; well beyond the rose-colored glasses, but not blinded by the smog either. This is an update to that storyline, which I thought would be interesting to APE’s readership, all of who undoubtedly hear a lot about the wonders of the Chinese economy. So bizarre and numerous are the stories in the news, that now The New York Times, Getty Images, and iStockphoto are all blocked in China along with just about every serious social media outlet produced in the United States, including Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

Shaun Rein, an agile entrepreneurial consultant to industries interested in relocations to China, and I occasionally trade communication about the amazing adjustments necessary here and which make working in China as a small foreign business very difficult. Add on top of these situations, that I have initiated a creative-based business, and it’s been a ripe learning experience. In under the first two years, I bailed a job applicant out of a silence-only windowless detention center, was blackmailed by a college student intern, was locked inside of a store and manhandled to purchase knockoff wardrobe, been visited by local officials bearing cameras and voice recorders, been encouraged to pay countless kickbacks (particularly for models), had company salaries removed from the office (while I was on vacation), and then blocked from the market of Mainland China by a competitor. It’s thus a little tongue and cheek to say that I have learned more about operational fundamentals in Beijing via episodes of AMC’s Breaking Bad, than stories in Businessweek. That is not to say that McKinsey and Company level expertise is not warranted in this market, but rather that such operational mechanisms are handled, as Shaun Rein has reminded me, at the Fortune 500 level, and not the small entrepreneurial startup arena of 50 workers or less, locally referred to as SMEs (Small Medium Enterprises).

China is amazingly interesting now; yes, despite the hurdles. We just saw the initiation of a new government and officially mandated Five Year Plan adjustment. The country is blossoming in subtlety as I learn the local language and become increasingly aware of the social context framework. I have, and I really do believe this, the hardest working production team that I have ever had anywhere, here now operational in Beijing. We’re having fun (it’s important to remember that) and we’re making images in droves that were never available before to the Chinese economy (our modus operandi). All are model and property released with technical specifications for global advertising, from a market overflowing in IPR theft and with little historical involvement in international advertising. It’s an entrepreneurial venture that has awakened in me all the challenges that I was seeking and for which New York City no longer provided during The Great Recession of 2008 forward.

This write-up is an insider’s take on the notorious economy in China for foreign commercial art creatives interested in participating. It is important to know that the manner of the mechanics of the economy here in China are different than in the US, where equal opportunity meets equal amounts of work. China is very much divided in the scope of work available and where the jobs are going. In the years since the post on APE, I have come to know, and probably more so accept, that the economy in China is and will be for a very long time barred from foreign participation unless the individual is embedded near permanently locally. This makes what may seem like “doing business in China” very difficult for one-off trips of assignment work. That does not mean that there is no opportunity to pursue, but those opportunities would be best spent (for a foreigner’s time and money), in contacting the normal routes of introduction to clients…i.e., ad agencies in Asia, or, better yet, advertising/design agencies in the West with the interests in sending a photographer abroad to do the work.

That’s the short take.

The longer take, important to us all since this is looking to be among the preeminent future economies in the world, is that the reasons for this lay within the manner in which the Chinese economy is situating itself. The meat and potatoes are essentially this: there are two types of jobs in China.

In Group 1, are the Chinese client jobs aimed to local talent; primarily focused on price (about 1/3rd the foreign norm), and not particularly focused on creative achievement but rather “technical achievement” (can the chosen worker do the work performed?). A lot of the latter deals with lacks of trust running between Chinese society and their government, the manners of establishing credibility in the market, the educational system setup, and the like. The work is provided through networks of communication (one’s work relationships), and it takes time to get those and even longer to maintain them. One would have to be in China to navigate this, and I do not see this system changing in the near future. If one had an interest in pursuing Chinese clientele, the scope of obtaining the jobs is much more labor intensive than a drop of a portfolio and massage of a budget. One would have to be in the trust network, and provide a lot of pre-emptive service to estimate, re-estimate, shoot tests, and the like, in order to establish an assignment. This would be an assignment, which in the end, would not generally remunerate for the time to do this setup work. Thus, the market is going to remain segmented. To do this from abroad is logistically not possible. As Shaun mentions, “it can be challenging for foreign creatives to work with Chinese clients, as historically Chinese firms are not willing to pay top dollar for creative services and consulting while they are for something tangible like hardware.”

In Group 2, there is foreign client work using both local and foreign talent and the work is budgeted according to both international price and local price. It varies widely and depends on the job. These jobs are often being situated in editorial focus, such as events and news stories, corporate portraits, and similar kinds of work. Actual advertising work is channeling for Westerners by the Westerner being connected primarily to the Western client before China becomes the focus. Thus, the manner of getting the work is similar to the way that photographers are marketing now. This is the system in which one has a potential client knowledgeable about their commercial artwork, and the client happens to have an assignment in China, or India, or Chile, or Fargo, North Dakota. This manner protects the photographer for licensing and payment, the bigger concern being simply getting paid. The local established method of money trading hands in China is almost always one half of the money up front, and the other half upon delivery. This delivery part can leave the living-abroad individual hanging if there are not protective mechanisms in the middle. One has very little power in Chinese legal systems (both Chinese and foreigners alike).

After two years, numerous jobs have come across my desk, but in nearly every case they have fallen into one of the two groups above. Time and again, interestingly, I have listened to foreign photographers living in China resolutely state that all their work is generated from foreign-only clients, and I found this odd. Odd because, often their experience, their years on the ground, their language abilities, even their Chinese friends, would all seem to suggest that other options were available to these candidates. But, I did not come across situations where this factually, more than hearsay, appeared to be the case in marketing and actual work performed. It could be that this market in China is generally quite underdeveloped in maturity compared to the Western focus of photography/creative economies seen in other major cities where there is mentorship, “rules” of engagement, and situations inducing competition to innovate. Certainly this is the case to a large degree, as standardization is wide here, but still difficult to measure since there is no over encompassing organization and each individual is mostly left to his/her own manners of development.

China is a very interesting place and economy. In many ways, I wish that there were more easily-situated work available to back up the post online a couple years back, but what I came to learn was that those offers were in Group 1 above, and generally not realistically obtained for those working outside of China. It may be the case that as my understanding of Chinese work and life continues, I will see yet another subtlety to the situation and go back on my analysis here as to why these market offers of work are not being met with foreigners showing up and actually doing that work. Clearly there is money flowing in China and there is work to be had, but it’s the mechanisms and logistics that are barring foreign operators from participation. China has everything that the West has, but it has its own local version: YouKu is China’s YouTube, Weibo is our Facebook, and all of these established Western websites are blocked. This should give a taste for the complications and when one multiplies them by the idiosyncrasies of daily life, it makes what seems as easy as a plane ticket and visa, quite relatively removed.

The bottom line is this: One, do not expect it to be easy to work in China. Two, do not expect on-the-ground support to the degree of comfort and planning that the West offers. Three, plan to exercise a great deal of patience upon each setback. Four, plan on needing to be present for supervision and quality control throughout the process. Five, the cultural barrier is greater than the language barrier. Six, jobs pay less. Seven, everything is transient, have multiple backup plans. Eight, China isn’t inexpensive for foreign businesses anymore. Nine, the Kung Po Chicken tastes better. Ten, the Chinese experience is exhilarating.

This is an image of the sun on a typical bad air quality day in the summer in Beijing. Ironically, for as unpleasing as it is to be outside in such conditions, it can be favorable for the overcast lighting effect and warm color hues that it creates for productions.

This is my smog and UV shield combination that I sometimes use when bicycling around Beijing.

Location scouting in China requires a lot of on the ground hussle and relationship building. Given the hurdles for cultural and language differences, we’ve seen great results by presenting our portfolio and team in person at target locations that we wish to shoot at. We do this in combination with our work in the community to develop mutually beneficial business relationships.

Outdoor locations in Beijing are relatively easy to shoot in since they generally do not require a permit. However, it takes a dance of logistics and conversation should local security arrive. It requires experience to understand who is real security and who is simply instigating trouble for a kickback payment. There are times when we politely engage, and other times when we know that we should wrap set and move on.

My newest favorite piece of equipment is my ultra tall Gitzo tripod. Obtaining international brand photo gear in China can be difficult since the choices are limited. I often transport new items to China after trips back to the United States. Repairs are equally complicated since international shipping is usually required.

We’re often involved in the local community with hands-on demos and recruiting from the local schools, whether that be from photo education, design schools, or business programs. Our best local job candidates come from a variety of backgrounds. There really is no one rule in hiring for production and photography work here. We have developed an in-house method to train our assistants since there is very little mentorship for this profession in China.

This is a behind-the-scenes image from our cover shoot for Time Out Beijing’s “Old Beijing” issue in February 2012. It later was voted as the best cover in Time Out Beijing’s 100 issue history.

Though this may look like the moon, it is actually an unmanipulated image of the winter sun in Beijing on a bad air quality day at noon. Beijing’s air quality levels have come under severe scrutiny in the past year after a particularly bad winter season for air pollution. It is not uncommon for a string of days in the winter months to be recorded at levels above the US Embassy’s top instrument reading of 500 AQI. There was a particular day in January 2013 that was recorded at 755 AQI. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48VAFtUlPLc#t=27

The Beijing winter can be terribly cold and exceedingly smoggy. The particulate in the air often renders one exhausted by late afternoon. In an effort to cut down on exposure, I found that wearing regular ski googles can be an effective shield to my eyes from the air pollution and dust.